Oryx and Crake + Genetically Engineered Organs

I just finished the book “Oryx and Crake” and what can I say? That was a great book! I finished most of the book in a span of 2 days because of how great it was. For those who didn’t read it or are still working on it I will not spoil anything for you but I would like to talk about the beginning of the book, specifically Genetically Engineered Organs. 

Organ engineering has been a topic of the future for some time now. The thought of growing a heart, liver, spleen, ear or cornea in a petri dish was once sci-fi but now it is becoming real life. This “news” cast tells a little about the implications of growing a ear on the back of a rat ( Ears Grown on Rats ).  The process behind growing this ear is to implant a metal structure into a hairless rat, inject collagen and chondrocytes (responsible for making cartilage) and watch it grow. People who are faced with burns, facial abnormalities or skin cancer will be able to utilize this skin that has been produced on a rat. I also found an article of a human cornea that was grown in a mouse. ( Human Cornea in Mice ) 

In the book Oryx and Crake, giant biotech firms were using pigs as a test subject. Pigs have similar size and function of organs that humans have therefore they were the perfect animal to use. In the book they were called pigoons. “The goal of the pigoon project was to grow an assortment of foolproof human-tissue organs in a transgenic knockout pig host…” (Pg 25). In the book, pigoons were used as a great stride in humanity. You were able to grow your own personalized pigoon with your DNA in it. This eliminates all complications that may arise with your body rejecting a transplant.  In the book, human beings are genetically engineering bioforms for the benefit of humans. They grow and harvest human organs in pigoons, chicken breasts from a plant, also raise racoon/skunks, and wolf/dogs. Not only is this in the book but it is currently being studied in real life. (Genetically Engineered Pigs ) 

This relates to our class in so many ways. This has a  transhumanist feeling. What are humans if we can grow our organs in a vial? Are those organs still human? Are the animals that have human organs human? All of these questions cannot be answered because, even in class, we found out it is quite hard to define what is human. 

This also relates to our view/feelings of animals. Why are humans so important that we use shells of animals to grow organs for us? What crosses the line when it comes to genetic engineering? Obviously Crake did not feel there was a line and that a new human species could be created and humans would be able to customize their youth. With the thought of a genetically engineered human, is it OK because humans are just animals? The animals also seemed to have thoughts because neocortex was being grown in pigoon brains. The neocortex ” is involved in higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought, and in humans, language.” says ScienceDaily. having these higher thinking processes, the pigoons were able to plan and coordinate with each other to trap Snowman.


Finally, the main point of the Crakers was to make a new race of humans that wold limit population, eliminate diseases and get rid of racial profiling that Homo sapiens sapiens are custom to do. This bring up the theme of race. We realize that in the Craker society they are all accepting. The do not care what the color of your skin is, what you are wearing or what is happening around them. Partially because they do not know much but also because that is how Crake designed them.


1 Comment

  1. At the beginning you talked about organ engineering. In my bio class this year we had to read an article about organ engineering and how in science they have been able to make in the lab some organs. I cannot remember specifics, but I know they have accomplished making simpler organs. They are still working on organs such as the heart and there is a lot more work they must do, but the book is not very off of what the future may look like. I agree that the book was so good. I had a hard time putting it down as well.

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